Wednesday, December 29, 2010

French Dip Sandwiches

These french dips have become a winner in our house!  Once again, this recipe comes from my sweet friend, and they've been a hit ever since I started making them.  Super simple recipe, not many ingredients, AND one you can put in the slow cooker or oven and leave all day!
The juice or "au jus", tastes soooo incredibly good!  The kids favorite part is dipping this sandwich.  Just serve a simple salad and you've got a great, easy meal.

French Dip Sandwiches {serves a lot}

  • 4 lbs. beef chuck {I don't always use chuck roast, last time I used tri-tip}
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • French dip rolls 
  • a little butter {melted}and garlic salt for rolls
  • sharp cheddar cheese {if desired}
Place everything in slow cooker or dutch oven and cook on low all day or high for 4-6 hours.
Shred the meat.  Open rolls and place on baking sheet.  Spread a little butter on top and bottom of rolls and sprinkle with garlic salt.  Broil in oven until golden.  If you want cheese on your rolls, place a couple slices of cheese on the rolls right when they come out of the oven.  Pile on the shredded beef and serve some leftover au jus on the side.  Enjoy!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Holiday Cider

This recipe comes courtesy of my brother.  He made this for me at Thanksgiving and it's definitely one of those warm and cozy kind of drinks!  It's a great drink to serve around the holiday's for the grown-ups.  Wishing you all a Merry Christmas, full of love, joy, and a perspective of the season.

Holiday Cider {serves 4-6 adults}


  • 4 Cups store bought Apple Cider
  • 1 Cup Makers Mark Bourbon {or any other authentic bourbon}
  • 1 sliced lemon
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. ground allspice
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • OR use 2 Tbsp. mulling spice mix instead of 4 ingredients above
Heat on low until nice a warm.  Enjoy!!!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Stuffed Mushrooms

The photo for the stuffed mushrooms above was taken before they were baked, so I apologize if they don't look very appetizing in the picture!  I took them to a party in a hurry and forgot to snap a photo of them fresh out of the oven.  So, you'll have to take my word for it...these are AMAZING!
My best friend gave me this recipe a long time ago and I've been making these babies ever since.  Recently I added a couple extra ingredients and they turned out really good!

Stuffed Mushrooms {Makes about 30 mushrooms}


  • 2 pkgs. cremini stuffing mushrooms
  • 3/4 pkg. cream cheese, softened
  • 3 oz. goat cheese, room temp.
  • 4 green onions, chopped half way up
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
  • 8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
DIRECTIONS:  Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.  Clean mushrooms and removed stems.  Toss mushrooms with some olive, salt and pepper.  Place on baking sheet and bake for 5-10 minutes at 450 degrees.  Remove from oven and turn mushroom over to drain the juices.  Let sit for 10 minutes.  
To make filling, place cream cheese, goat cheese, green onions, parsley, and crumbled bacon in food processor and pulse until blended, or mix by hand.
Turn mushrooms over and scoop filling into mushrooms.  You can be generous with the filling!  Place on clean baking sheet, reduce oven to 350 degrees and bake for 20-30 minutes.
Serve warm!
**These are a great appetizer to make up ahead of time and just put in the refrigerator until your ready to bake them.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Gingerbread Men and a day of baking

Well, it's STILL raining and I don't think it's going to let up for a couple more days.  So, I rolled up my sleeves, got out my apron, and baked some goodies with my mom and sister today.  We made our favorites, but also tried something new this year.  I've never made gingerbread men before and I thought it would be fun for the kids, so I found a recipe and baked up some really cute ones!
Here's the recipe I adapted from HERE.  I only made a couple modifications with the spices, but otherwise it's pretty much the same recipe.  Make these this Christmas and have fun decorating them!!  I've included a recipe for really easy cookie icing.  It comes from King Arthur Flour.  The icing comes out very shiny and is perfect for tinting with food coloring.

Oh, I bought this cookie cutter kit from Williams Sonoma last year.  It comes with 3 large cookie cutters and words to imprint on the cookies, like "Merry Christmas" or any other greeting you'd like.  We've had a lot of fun with it!

Gingerbread Men {makes 3 dozen cookies, or 1 dozen large men}


  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup dark molasses
  • 1/3 cup cold water
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. allspice
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  In a large bowl, beat butter, brown sugar, molasses and water with an electric mixer or by hand until smooth.  In another large bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and salt.  
Add the flour mixture to the molasses mixture, stirring by hand just until you have a soft dough.  Divide the dough in half, shape each piece into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 2 hours or up to a few days.  
When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  On a lightly floured surface, roll one piece of dough to about 1/4 inch thick.  Cut out with cookie cutters and place about one inch apart on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet.  
Bake for 12-15 minutes, until set.  Bake a few minutes longer if you want crispy cookies. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.  Repeat with remaining dough, re-rolling scraps to get as many cookies as possible.  

Quick and Easy Icing:
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. corn syrup
  • 2 Tbsp. milk, or more as needed to get desired consistency
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract {optional}
  • food coloring {optional}
Whisk all ingredients in bowl and add more milk if needed.  

Here's Tyler, so happy with his "cool guy"

Just a few of the kids creations

Ella and Tyler doing just ONE more cookie!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Cinnamon Bread Frech Toast

Today is definitely one of those days that calls for comfy clothes, Christmas movies, and a big Saturday breakfast!  The rain hasn't let up all day and it's forced us to RELAX!  I bought a loaf of Trader Joe's Cinnamon Bread with plans to make nice, thick french toast for the kids.
After I made myself a nice hot Americano, I sat down to a lovely Saturday breakfast with my happy family.  These days are what vacation is all about!

Here's my little kitchen helper putting the finishing touches on his french toast

Cinnamon Bread French Toast {serves 5-6}


  • 1 loaf Trader Joe's Thick Cut Cinnamon Bread {Or any other thick-cut cinnamon bread}
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1-2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • butter for frying
  • syrup and powdered sugar for topping
Heat large skillet to medium-high heat.  In a shallow pie plate or bowl, mix together beaten egg, milk, and vanilla extract.  Butter the skillet liberally.  Dip one piece of bread at a time into the egg mixture and gently shake off any excess mixture.  Place on hot skillet and fry 3-4 minutes on one side, or until golden brown, then flip and fry 2-3 minutes more.  Repeat with remaining bread.  Be sure to add butter to skillet before you add remaining bread.
**To keep french toast warm while making the rest, place on cookie sheet and put in a 200 degree oven.  
Top your french toast with syrup and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Only 4 ingredients!

I LOVE my big skillet!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tortilla Chicken Soup

My kids were excitedly counting down the days until Christmas this morning and when they blurted out 10 days, I thought they were joking!  This month is flying by and I'm hoping that once all of the school parties are done on Friday and the kids have said goodbye to their friends for a couple of weeks, that I'll be ready to welcome them home with open arms and a joyful heart!
My plan is to do some serious baking with them next week...all of their favorites and some of mine!  Hopefully I'll be able to share some of those recipes with you too!
Until then, this was one of those spur of the moment soups that took no time at all to whip up.  If you have leftover chicken or if you buy a roasted one from the store, it will make this recipe all the easier!  Oh, I almost forgot that I added a last-minute ingredient into this soup...Butternut squash.  I diced up the squash and added it prior to simmering.  It added a nice hearty-ness to the soup.

Tortilla Chicken Soup {serves 6-8} adapted recipe from here

  • 1-16oz. container grape tomatoes
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 large or 2 small shallots, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled and cut in small chunks
  • 1 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 pkg. frozen corn
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
  • 2 cups cooked chicken breasts, shredded (great use for leftover chicken)
Garnish with:
  • sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • fresh cilantro
  • sour cream
  • tortilla strips {Recipe below}
  • other garnish options: avocado, diced jalapeno
  Place grape tomatoes and chopped carrots in blender and puree until almost smooth.  In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Saute onions and garlic until soft; about 5 minutes.  Add bell pepper and saute another 5 minutes.  Season with a salt, pepper, chili powder, and cumin.  Add chicken stock, tomato and carrot mixture, corn, black beans, chicken, and cilantro.  Simmer for 30-40 minutes.  

**While soup is simmering, if you'd like to make your own tortilla strips you can start now.  Heat 1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil in a pot.  Cut 12 corn tortillas into thin strips.  Fry tortillas until golden brown and drain on paper towels.  Sprinkle with some kosher salt immediately.  
To serve, ladle soup into bowls, sprinkle some cilantro and cheese, add a dollop of sour cream, and crispy tortilla strips on top.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

I love pumpkin bread!  I have a recipe that's been passed down in my family that I use a lot, but this time I strayed and tried something new.  I love the fact that this bread is really moist and that it has the wonderful crunchy crumb topping that is irresistible!
NOTE**This recipe says it makes one loaf, but I had a major spill in my oven by an over-flowing batter and it took much longer for it to bake then the recipe called for.  So, next time I will probably either divide the batter into 2 pans, or just leave out one cup of the batter if I want to make one large loaf.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread {recipe adapted from HERE}


  • 3 Cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin puree
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/3 cups buttermilk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips 
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp. chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Coat one or two 9-inch loaf pans with cooking spray {see note above}.
In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, pumpkin pie spice, and cinnamon.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk together oil, pumpkin, brown sugar, sugar, buttermilk, and vanilla until well combined; whisk in eggs until thoroughly mixed.  Stir in dry ingredients just until incorporated; stir in chocolate chips and walnuts until combined.
Scrape batter into prepared pans {leaving out 1 cup of batter if you decide to bake ONE loaf}.  
To make the crumb topping, in a small bowl, stir together flour, brown sugar and cinnamon until combined.  Cut in butter using either finger tips or a pastry blender, until mixture is very crumbly.  Sprinkle crumbs over the top of batter and gently press down.
Bake 50-60 minutes or until well risen, golden brown, and a toothpick inserted into bread comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack for 30-45 minutes before removing bread from pan.

Makes 1-2 loaves

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Chocolate Espresso Cakes

Chocolate Espresso Cakes {Sunset Dec. 2010}

Make these cute little cakes for your next Christmas party and you'll be glad you did!
I found these baking molds at Michael's Craft store.  They come in many different colors...

INGREDIENTS: {Makes 12 cakes}

  • 1 12/ cups sugar
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup brewed coffee, cooled
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • About 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup espresso powder
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 6 oz. semisweet chocolate chunks or chips
  • 4 oz. bittersweet (or semisweet) chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl with a mixer, beat sugar, buttermilk, coffee, oil, eggs, salt, and vanilla on medium speed until well blended.
2. Whisk together flour, 1/2 cup cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking soda, and baking powder in a bowl to blend.  Gradually add to wet mixture; beat on medium speed until smooth, scraping down sides as necessary.  Stir in semisweet chocolate chunks.
3.  Set baking molds on a rimmed baking pan and fill each about two-thrids full.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in centers (avoiding chocolate chunks) comes out clean, about 27 minutes.  Cool cakes completely on a rack.
4.  Melt bittersweet chocolate with cream in a small saucepan over very low heat and stir with a rubber spatula until smooth and blended.  Remove from heat and let cool until thick but still spreadable, about 30-40 minutes.  Spread on cakes.  Dust cakes with cocoa.  Let frosting firm up completely before serving, at least 30 minutes.  

Monday, December 6, 2010

Beef, Barley and Mushroom Soup

I'm thinking Christmas is approaching a little too fast this year.  I'm not sure if it's just me, or if it's because all the stores make me feel like if I haven't started my shopping by the beginning of November, than I'm running way behind by the time the first week of December rolls around.  I'm just not in that kind of a hurry this year.  I want to take this month in before it rolls right on by!  It's kind of a jam-packed month for us, with mine and my husbands birthdays being eleven days apart.  It's always been a little strange having a birthday so close to the busiest time of year, but my hope is that this year we will be able to slow down and celebrate each other!

Ok, so now on to some really good soup!  I slightly adapted this recipe from HungryCravings and it was all that I had hoped it would be!  It's super hearty and full of flavor.  I can't tell you how wonderful it made my house smell...and the leftovers were just as great!  Ok, so as you can probably tell in the picture above that the soup looks a little thick.  Well, I didn't use as much stock as I should have, so I listed it properly on the recipe.  It was still REALLY yummy soup!

Beef, Barley and Mushroom Soup {serves 6-8}

  • 3 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 2 lbs. lean sirloin steak, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 heaping Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 lb. cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 1/2 to 2 quarts beef broth
  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • 1 cup pearled barley {rinsed}
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
Heat a large, stock pot over medium-high heat until hot.  Add the oil and half of the beef {season with salt and pepper} and cook for 5-7 minutes, turning once.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the beef to a plate.  Brown the remaining beef and set aside on plate.  Reduce heat to medium, add the shallot, celery, and carrot, season with salt and pepper, and saute for 5 minutes, or until soft.  Add the garlic and tomato paste and saute 3-4 minutes more.  Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and saute about 5 minutes, or until soft.  Add the wine and simmer for 1 minute, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  Return the beef to the pot and add the broth, bay leaf, and thyme.  Bring to a boil and simmer for at least 1 hour {I actually simmered for 1 hour on the stove and 1 hour in the oven at 300 degrees because I had to leave the house}.  **Add barley the last 45 minutes of simmering time. If you add it too soon, it will swell and become too soggy.
Once barley is tender, remove from heat, discard the bay leaf and thyme sprig.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and stir in the parsley.  
Ladle into bowls and serve with crusty bread!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Roasted Acorn Squash with Brown Sugar and Maple Syrup

I think this recipe has got to be one of the easiest, but tastiest ever!  Acorn squash ranks up there with butternut squash as far as flavor, but honestly, there are times when I prefer this type of squash over butternut.  Very satisfying and would go great alongside any main dish.  I made this with my Chicken with apples, fresh cranberries and Gorgonzola recipe.

Roasted Acorn Squash with Brown Sugar and Maple Syrup {Serves 4 as a side dish}

  • 1 large acorn squash, cut in half {seeds scooped out}
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 2-3 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. pure maple syurp {or honey}
  • salt
  • freshly ground pepper
Pre-Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Cut squash in half and clean out seeds with a spoon.  Lay in a baking dish with sides.  Cut the1 Tbsp. of butter in half and rub on the inside of each squash half.  Sprinkle each half with brown sugar and maple syrup.  Season with a little salt and freshly ground pepper.
Pour about 1/2 cup of water in the bottom of baking dish to keep the squash moist.  Place in oven and bake for about 1 hour or until tender with a fork.  Slice into half moons about 2 inches thick.  

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Chicken with Apples, fresh Cranberries and Gorgonzola

Wow, that Thanksgiving break sure did come and go fast!  We were blessed to spend Thanksgiving in Nashville with my brother and his wife.  It was a fun trip filled with lot's of cooking, eating, laughs, and great memories!  Here's a couple pictures of the kids enjoying his big yard.  Oh, and one of Jaden rocking out with the electric guitar!

This recipe was originally created by one of my good friends and since it has been a couple years, I couldn't quite remember how she made it.  So, I kind of made it up from what I remembered.  The cranberries make it a little on the tangy side, so what I would do next time is toss the cranberries in a little bit of brown sugar before adding them to the chicken.  This is a great Fall/Winter dish and it goes great with the Acorn Squash recipe and roasted vegetables.

Chicken with Apples, fresh Cranberries and Gorgonzola {serves 5-6}

  • 2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts {cut in half}
  • 2 fuji apples, sliced
  • 1/2-1 pkg. fresh cranberries
  • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar {to toss cranberries in}
  • salt
  • pepper
  • gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
DIRECTIONS:  Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  Heat oil and butter in a large {oven proof} saute pan to medium-high.  Add chicken, season with salt and pepper and brown on first side for 5 minutes.  Turn chicken over and brown for another 2-5 minutes.  Add apples and cranberries and cook for 2 minutes.  Place lid on pan and put in pre-heated oven for 20 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.
Place a couple pieces of chicken on plate, spoon on cranberries and apples, and top with crumbled gorgonzola cheese.
Browning the chicken

just added the apples and sure to get sweet apples!

all done, after 30 minutes cooking in the oven


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